Last week Dan Patterson wrote a very interesting article for the Gospel Coalition Australia Blog on the subject of Identity. In it he describes a poignant short-film called Love has no labels that speaks against the Christian view of gender and sexuality.
The film begins in a public space with two people standing face-to-face behind a large x-ray screen. All the viewers can see are the skeletal figures of the two individuals embracing, kissing and talking. They walk out from behind the screen and the viewers learn that the individuals are women.
It is poignant and compelling because, while viewing the two identity-less individuals behind the screen, it is difficult to have misgivings about the apparent love between them. The viewer is challenged when the identity-less individuals step into their socially recognisable identities by emerging from behind the x-ray screen.
Patterson is careful to point out; “To identify the two people as women and therefore lesbian, however, misses the main point of the film. The film’s purpose is to communicate a message that problematises the understanding of relationships on the basis of identity categories, in this instance woman and lesbian. If the concept of ‘woman’ does not exist, then nor does ‘lesbian’, thus making a grand statement about what it means to be human and how humans can live.”
The films idea of identity categories are illustrated with other individuals
The next identity-less couple is revealed as mixed-race: love has no race. Two young girls step out, one of whom has a disability: love has no disability. Three people follow—two men who are obviously coupled and a young boy, perhaps their son: love has no gender. The next couple appears to be older, which was not evident when they were behind the screen: love has no age. Two little girls then emerge after playing clapping games: love has no race. Finally, two women and two men dressed in different religious attire appear: love has no religion.
Dan Patterson’s article is very helpful because it points out the videos main point (“Love should not be legislated against, or withheld from, another person based on difference.”) but the underlying message as well…a celebration not of individuality, but sameness.
One is left with the impression that the film is promoting mixed-race marriage, cross-generational friendship, integrated child’s play, inter-religious relations, and homosexual partnerships. But if that was the case, the captions would read love has gender, love has race, love has age, and so on: love has labels.
It quickly becomes apparent that the film is not a celebration of difference, but sameness. In other words, the film attempts to promote marriage, gender, friendship, religion and sexuality on the grounds that there is no difference.
Towards the end Patterson deals with the core problem.
While the film produces a rhetorically powerful argument it must be acknowledged that it operates on a remarkably sad presupposition: difference must be done away with in order to create the conditions for love to flourish within society.
In other words there must be a unity or sameness to all of us as we all give up our “labels” and this is what the world calls love. Patterson ends by pointing out how differences instead of something we should destroy becomes a tool of God’s Glory.
The Christian alternative to the inadequate solution of difference-blindness is reconciliation (Col 1:19–23). Reconciliation is the redemptive process that salvages human difference through its re-creation in Christ.
Where hostility plagues humanity’s relationships (within the self, with others and God), Christ brings peace through his own death. In Christ, humanity is delivered from the perversion of difference and the hostility that results.
Difference is therefore not a threat to human identity, but a truly beautiful characteristic of it. This means that human flourishing occurs when reconciled differences in Christ constitute loving relationships between us, and between God and ourselves.
May God give us articles like this that help us see differences as something that needs to be celebrated instead of eliminated.